12 Jul 2010

World Cup: we all won it

So Spain won; South Africa won; Football won – albeit scrappily; and we, the world, won.

The final was the only game I watched in its entirety. My support for Spain was both emotional and irrational.

I love the language, I like the feel of the country, and I have an interest in its evolving relationship with its erstwhile empire in the Americas – where one of my earliest journalistic enthusiasms lies.

It’s one of the possibly irrational reasons why I feel an Iberia/BA fusion makes such sense – a global liaison that appeals to some of the best of two old empires and results in very little duplication of service.

There is much about domestic football that I find alienating, not least its organisation. You can’t vaguely support Brighton & Hove Albion all your life without feeling the frustration of a sport organised for the sole benefit of the footballing elite.

Alienation lies in its maleness too, and its machismo – particularly off the pitch.

And this was where South Africa won. Was it the vuvuzelas wot won it? Did they still the drunken maleness that so has so often brought the game low in the North.

How come fewer  ‘fans’  were arrested throughout the entire competition than are often arrested in a single day of football in the North? Was it the altitude? The Southern winter temperatures?

This has been a watershed for South Africa. A massive moment that Mandela himself did not NEED to attend even if he had been fit enough – the first glimpse of a confident post-Mandela South African age?

A watershed too for a vision of a South Africa that can act in unity to produce so coherent and tangible a result.

Don’t worry, the rose tinted specs are off – for sure the contest allowed a glimpse of the country’s inequalities and challenges.

But the reality that South Africa accounts for 27 per cent of the entire African continent’s GDP speaks of its role to come if this World Cup energy can be sustained.

That’s a big ‘if’. But we can be grateful to football for what has passed. I’m glad I watched the World Cup Final. Despite being an indifferent football follower, I got a lot out of it – I am optimist enough to suspect that in one way and another, the whole world did.

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